Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’ is often thought of as ‘a problem play’ - but for Conrad Nelson, who created the music, directs and acts in the current Northern Broadsides production, the title is unjustified.
After a summer tour, the play returns to the theatre company’s home base at the Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough, from November 24 to 28.
Conrad said: “We open the play on New Year’s Eve 1999. For me New Year’s Eve is a time of reflection, looking back at what you’ve done and resolutions, looking forward to the future. In the play the main protagonists are lifelong, boyhood friends so we can look back on their relationship. There is also a pregnant queen, Leontes’s wife, who is about to give birth so we are looking forward as well.
“I think it’s thought of as a problem play because it’s a play of two halves - you get the two worlds of Sicilia and Bohemia and the centre section is this colourful outdoor rural scene as opposed to the dark interior of Sicilia. The play goes over 16 years and pulls you from one world to another.”
Conrad has not appeared on stage with Northern Broadsides since 2009 when he played Iago in ‘Othello’. In the meantime he has concentrated on directing and radio work as well as appearing in Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’.
“I was looking at ‘The Winter’s Tale’ and I thought if I was directing and casting this play, I’d be looking for someone like me to play Leontes - or if not someone like me, it’s certainly a part I could play.”
Though Conrad considers Leontes to be ‘an idiot’, he relishes tackling the role.
“Once he has convinced himself that his wife has had an affair, once he has set the ball rolling with that, though everyone tells him to look the other way, he just can’t help himself.
“The ball rolls so far and so quickly - it’s almost as if he partly realises he’s wrong but he just can’t help himself.
“When the news comes that his wife is innocent, he tries to repair the mistake but, of course, it’s too late and the whole thing spins out of control. It’s fascinating to watch and it’s a great human study. It’s very exciting to be part of it.”
‘The Winter’s Tale’will feature many familiar Broadsides’ elements - strong, text-based work, music and dance with choreography by Bev Edmunds.
“We’ve got some excellent actors and players and I think it’s got all those elements that are part and parcel of the Broadsides canon - so I’m hoping people will come and see it and tell their mates too!” said Conrad.
‘The Winter’s Tale’ starts at 7.30pm with a matinee performance on November 28 at 2.30pm.
Box office details are on 01422 255266.